Biotech Showcase™ 2015 is in full swing on this second conference day. An estimated 2,100 delegates have been participating in 4,400 one-to-one partnering meetings this year, an all-time high.
The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine’s (ARM)“Regenerative Medicine and Advanced Therapies State of the Industry Briefing” drew a large audience, with ARM Chair Edward Lanphier introducing the briefing’s two consecutive panels. Summary: Regenerative medicines and advanced therapies are a huge draw for investors eager to develop their potential for rare and orphan diseases, as well as for treating the big three: oncology, infectious diseases and cardiology. With advocacy organizations such as ARM and California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) working on easing manufacturing and regulatory hurdles, it’s clear that cell therapies will draw a lot of interest in 2015.
Monday morning, the panel “Key trends in specialty drug management and their impact on product commercialization strategies” focused on current drug development costs in the US for speciality drugs, and potential solutions for controlling costs and improving patient care in the future. Key qualifiers in classifying specialty drugs include high cost, as they tend to be USD 600 per month and can cost up to USD 750,000 per year; therapeutic area designation for treatment of a chronic or rare illness, typically treating around 3% or less of the population; and having a complex manufacturing process (e.g., biologics) and complex handling and storage processes. This is a space that is growing extremely rapidly, with spending expected to rise from USD 92 billion in 2012 to over USD 235 billion by 2018. It is estimated that by 2018, specialty drug spending will account for over half of the total drug spend in the US even though they account for a very small percentage of the total prescriptions filled. Payer management is a critical issue, as many of these drugs are actually managed at the medical benefit side of the payer.
Another Monday panel on the role of international partnerships in creating value for biopharm drew a lot of attention, and featured executives and investors involved in the international establishment of Onyx, InterMune and Cubist. Key takeaway: Make sure you have a well-planned strategy that includes involving local partners, and work with advisors or experts who can help manage resources and challenges to ensure added value to come out on top.
Monday’s lunch plenary was moderated by Mike Griffith of inVentiv Health focused on value creation for public and private companies gave delegates insider advice on how to better position their companies toward strategic deals. The perspective from investors was that if an opportunity is robust enough, valuation will help to move the needle on a big fund. It’s all about positioning, and tailoring the company message to resonate with investors. There is more money in the US for biotech but there is also more money wasted, something that needs to be addressed in order for there to be more instances of arbitrage.
Tuesday morning, the panel “Type 1 Diabetes: Novel therapies, devices and diagnostics on the horizon” featured experts in the field speaking to a packed room on the most cutting edge, disruptive treatments for Type 1 diabetes on the horizon. From a first-in-class rapid insulin infusion to increase adherence to a stem cell source treatment to create a pancreatic progenitor cell to control blood glucose, to a synthetic virus designed to trigger the immune system, there was palpable excitement for the possibilities on offer. These initiatives are largely supported by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) in hopes of developing disease interception through the use of biomarkers. According to Richard Insel, Chief Scientific Officer at JDRF, in the US over 15,000 relatives of those with Type 1 diabetes are screened annually through the Trialnet “pathway to prevention” study to learn more about how Type 1 diabetes occurs. Joseph Hedrick, Venture Leader for Type 1 diabetes at the Disease Interception Accelerator at Janssen said, “The instance of Type 1 diabetes is increasing, and has for the last couple decades. We don’t yet understand why that is. It increases about 3–4% per year in the US.”
Tuesday’s Lunch Plenary
Tuesday’s lunch plenary “How robust is the biotech rally and what could derail it?” featured discussion on the tug of war between reimbursement issues and the continued robust IPO market. It’s an exceptional time to be a seller, or at least it feels that way for some companies. Will the positive IPO atmosphere continue or is it just a bubble, as some have said? Consensus was that the market is strong and those companies that have created innovative yet differentiated offerings have real value, and this is critical to the payer. Overall, the panel agreed we are in a changing environment when it comes to reimbursement, and when bringing products to market, payers and providers still base their reimbursement on quality and value.
For more coverage on Biotech Showcase 2015, see:
Streetwise Reports and the Life Science Reports The Conference Daily
BioWorld’s coverage “Regenerative medicine: A growing global industry, ARM reports”
San Francisco Business Times “JPM Week: Five Prime deal coming”